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This is a sibling to How should we handle obsolete answers? – but with a completely different focus: while the answers there are simply not longer valid for Android versions newer than X – I'm asking about answers which became completely invalid. Examples:

  • How do I send SMS from PC through Android Phone or to Android Phone? Link rod, the recommended service is no longer available (and the website is in "parking mode", i.e. only showing ads and maybe other unwanted content)
  • Services and their approaches might have been completely changed. I'm not talking about "Menu › X" must now bee looked for at "Menu › Z › Y" (in that case: Edit the post and fix it! :) – but rather working completely different now, thus no longer matching the question

And other things that "invalidate" an answer in a way not easily recoverable by "edit and fix it".

It would be unfair to the answerer to…

  • downvote it (at least if it was a valid answer "back then")
  • delete it (unless older than X (180d?)), as the reputation gained by the answer was earned at the time the answer was valid

An option might be to "mark" it:

  • prepend a "quoted emphasized" block with details (a la "this answer is no longer valid because…")
  • strike-through "broken parts"
  • remove "rotten links" (to prevent dangerous affects with new content popping up there)

Before acting in any way, I'd like to see your opinions – and reach a community consensus. So please point out your thoughts!

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N.B. I'm posting this answer to explain what happened with Izzy's first example, in case any non-moderators are confused. It's not meant as an authoritative statement of policy, and I'd love to hear (agreeing or differing) reasoning from the rest of the community.


In the case of the first example you posted, I started editing the question in the way you suggest: removing the rotten link, and adding a note to say why. I was thinking exactly the same way you suggest: that's fairer to the answerer. On Stack Exchange, we tend to dislike deleting people's stuff unless it breaks the site or is actively harmful to the community.

But while I was making the edit, I changed my mind. As I wrote the note saying that the recommendation was no longer useful because the product doesn't exist any more, I felt silly. Why would we continue to carry a recommendation that isn't useful to anyone? All the people the answer might have helped have been helped and have moved on; it's not useful to anyone any more. And because it's no longer useful, there's the risk that future visitors might downvote the answer. Is that what the answerer would want? I don't think it is. I think that they'd come back and delete the answer themselves if it started getting downvotes because it was no longer valid.

In this case, the answer was old enough for the rep gain to survive the deletion of the answer, so the asker lost nothing. I'd hope that that's always the case if the answer has been invalidated by outside change. So in this one case, I decided to delete the answer instead.

I'd rather much see that kind of flexibility - choosing the response that's best for everyone in the particular situation - than a blanket policy. Sure, it opens the possibility of different moderators on different days doing different things - i.e. inconsistency - but I think it's worth it.

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  • 100% agree with you, Dan – you even filled the gaps I've left open in my question. Do you happen to know the exact time frame for the "gained rep to stick"? I knew it once but forgot. Something along the lines of 90 or 180 days? – Izzy Aug 30 '16 at 13:21
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    I think your 180 day guess was right; I had it in my head as six months. – Dan Hulme Aug 30 '16 at 13:38
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    I agree. Answerers keep their rep for old answers even if deleted, so we're not losing anything if the answer is now completely unusable as in the case of a closed-source service that has shuttered. I'd say just be careful in the case of old apps that have been taken down, etc. -- there's always an .apk floating out there somewhere. – Matthew Read Aug 30 '16 at 19:52
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I am wondering if we need to have a re-look at the accepted answer which is the de-facto policy.

Context:

  • I flagged about 30 answers for deletion today having “Sound About" App as the answer. AFAIR, this app worked fine till Android 7.0, meaning it served the advertised purpose for users on 4.3 to 7.x.Let's have a look at the distribution chart

enter image description here

The crux of the reason in accepted answer is

All the people the answer might have helped have been helped and have moved on; it's not useful to anyone any more. And because it's no longer useful, there's the risk that future visitors might downvote the answer

  • Now, if you compare with the infographic, it would show that the answer is still relevant and useful to about 40% of users, and visitors /users of the site are deprived of this working answer (unless they have the reputation to view deleted answers). This aspect is not considered in the accepted answer

  • It's certainly not my case that one compares every such case with distribution (more so, when Google stopped providing these inputs) but to to have a re-look, and decide if this policy is in the best interests of the site.

Alternatives?

  • Users flag, answers are not deleted and AppBrain links be added as suggested here Should app dependent answers with dead links be replaced with AppBrain's links?.

  • Users flag, answers are not deleted. A mod points to the above question, so that future visitors know both - the app is unavailable and where they can look for it (this can be done by users too, but it's better handled at mod level, since some apps are available in selected regions only and wrong comments need to be cleaned up)

  • Something better?

Edit: One more reason not to delete is the reputation loss, which happens unless (Thanks to Andrew for clarification)

reputation earned for posts with a score of 3 or higher, and where the post has been visible on the site for at least 60 days, is retained

This means that users may stand to lose reputation, if they don't meet the above conditions for no fault of theirs! Possible reputation loss was briefly mentioned in question and comments without perhaps taking the specifics into consideration.

It may be best to retain answers IMO, without deletion and as suggested in question, prepend a "quoted emphasized" block with details (a la "this answer is no longer valid because…") with additional link to AppBrain

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  • Pointing the link to Appbrain (instead of removing it entirely or let it rot) has the clear advantage that a visitor can scroll down there and check the alternatives proposed. Wish we had the possibility to "lock answers" (to prevent downvoting effectively), keeping them as "frozen piece of time". But I guess the edit it the way you suggest would at least be better than removing it entirely, though it still leaves the chance of "unjust downvotes". We need to decide by-case anyway; some questions might be "frozen" (locked) entirely if the issue no longer applies to recent versions. – Izzy May 27 at 21:08
  • 1.The warning could start with "Don't down vote" (no guarantees it will prevent) 2. Case by case approach is better (though prone to human inconsistency) since answer locking isn't possible 3.Another extreme could be locking the question itself to prevent any voting / comments ("historical reasons" (IIRC), to say "we are not accepting answers.....). Agreed, it is an extreme interpretation of historical but the lock warming could also include reasons and App rain link. This, on the face of it seems to be" win - win "for all - no deletion, no up or down votes, no rep loss, alternatives // – beeshyams May 28 at 2:40
  • Presented to readers. This by far would be ideal in terms of "fossilized questions". 4. Another possibility could be adding this reason to community driven closure, a variant of option 3. In short, anything but don't delete (though I up voted deletion option in past and did flag) but that info graphic which I happened to see just after flagging set me thinking very differently. Unfortunately, the community isn't active on meta, so it's difficult to get their view so mods have to end up deciding the best course but to me option 3 appears best. – beeshyams May 28 at 2:47
  • Well, we could ask for a "freeze historical answers" feature. But that at best would take quite a while to become available, if accepted at all… – Izzy May 28 at 7:47
  • @Izzy we can lock answers permanently, but the available justifications are -- content dispute, comments dispute, wiki. Any of these justifications would only confuse the visitors if the lock is used for any other reason. – Firelord May 28 at 15:27
  • Hm, wouldn't "wiki(fied) for historical reasons" fit then @Firelord? – Izzy May 28 at 20:29
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    Don't know. We can go ahead. If somebody complaints about being confused with that notice we would have to ask a for [feature-request], but till than, this can be used. – Firelord May 28 at 20:54
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just ask the person who asked the question for what do with the question

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  • Won't work, as like the person who wrote the answer, the person who asked the question in 98% isn't active anymore. Apart from that, I've asked about the answer, not the question. – Izzy Sep 5 '16 at 5:36
  • make a vote on the answer. if it is unwanted, then remove it – Saksham Goyal Sep 5 '16 at 12:27
  • As already pointed out in my question: Downvoting it would be unfair, upvoting would be inappropriate. – Izzy Sep 5 '16 at 12:29

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